This article (published in Music Week W/E 7 November
1998 and on www.dotmusic.com) represents the first major non-US
promotion for Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love" album. It is also the
first article to confirm the track-listing for the project.
As news spread two weeks ago that Whitney Houston's first
studio album in eight years was ready, no one seemed more surprised or pleased than her
record company, Arista. All BMG's affiliates knew she had gone into the studio to put down
two or three new tracks for a greatest hits package that would probably be ready in time
for Christmas. There had even been talk of enough material to make a new album. But no one
knew they would receive a blockbuster collection of 13 new and contemporary tracks that
was put together in just eight weeks.
But that was precisely what Arista worldwide president Clive Davis was able to unveil at a
hastily-convened session in Paris's Le Neil's club last week where he played and talked
through the album.
Even Davis and Houston, the album's executive producers, had started off in late summer
with a Best Of collection in mind. The spark was when Jeffrey Katzenberg, one third of the
DreamWorks founding triumvirate, invited Davis to a private preview screening of the
Christmas animated movie Prince Of Egypt. Davis liked what he saw and asked Houston to
come down and see the film as well. The penultimate scene featuring the two main female
characters singing a duet was seen as a perfect opportunity to end rumours of rivalry
between Houston and Mariah Carey and so the pair linked up to record When You Believe.
It was only then that Davis started contacting producers and writers to submit tracks to
add to a greatest hits package. Among the first two to come in were It Ain't Right, But
It's Okay an up-tempo floor-filler from Rodney Jerkins, the rising star who scored
a huge hit earlier this year with Brandy & Monica hit's Boy Is Mine and
Heartbreak Hotel, written by Tamara Savage and Soulshock & Karlin.
Davis then contacted Fugee Wyclef Jean and played him these tracks. "He was totally
blown away and said 'I want to be part of this, I'm gonna to write the song of my
life'," says the record company veteran. Jean came back with the album's title track
My Love Is Your Love and it was only at this point that Davis and Houston started thinking
about a new album. He says the important consideration when picking songs and producers
for the project was firstly for everyone to understand that this was Houston's first
studio album in eight years. The other crucial consideration was to come up with a
younger, more contemporary sound that would attract new listeners without alienating
Houston's huge established fanbase.
The result is an impressive cast of a virtual who-is-who in contemporary black music. The
album features three tracks written and produced by Jerkins, two from Missy Elliot, one
each from Fugees' Wyclef and Lauryn Hill and one from Tamara Savage and Danish production
team Soulshock and Karlin.
Meanwhile, the veterans are by no means left out: Diane Warren contributes three songs,
one produced by David Foster and two produced by Babyface, who also writes and produces
one of his own. The 35-year-old Houston says she found working with the younger producers
like Jerkins (aged 19) and Elliot (25) both fulfilling and educational. "You have to
keep with what the current groove is because today's music is basically youth-orientated
with lots of beats and rhythms," she says. "I had a lot of fun making this
album," she adds. Both the grooves and lyrics bring more of a street and cutting-edge
feel to My Love Is Your Love than is present in any of Houston's previous work. And
notably Davis and Houston have achieved this without going down the Eighties hit re-make
and blatant sampling route.
Most of the material was written with Houston in mind or, after discussions with Houston,
about her experiences, especially those since becoming a wife and mother. "I wouldn't
necessarily define this album as street or less-ballad driven. I just didn't feel like
singing about I Will Always Love You," she says simply.
The album will be released worldwide on November 16, two weeks before the first single,
When You Believe, which will appear on Columbia (and will feature on Carey's hits set as
well as DreamWorks' Prince Of Egypt OST). Inevitably Houston's album is likely to benefit
from the $100m advertising budget for the Prince Of Egypt movie and soundtrack, as well as
Columbia's Carey campaign and BMG's own pre-Christmas album push.
The next single, It's Not Right, But It's Okay, will receive an "enormous" push
in January, according to BMG UK president Jeremy Marsh, and will be supported by a UK
promotional tour including major TV appearances like Top Of The Pops and possibly the
National Lottery. Subsequent singles will appear in April and July prior to a Christmas
1999 album push.
"This album will re-establish Whitney with her existing audience but also find her
lots of new younger fans, particularly with the Rodney Jerkins tracks," Marsh says.
Neither Davis nor Marsh are prepared to talk sales predictions. It's easy to see why
Houston's first three albums set a daunting benchmark with their combined sales
worldwide of more than 57m units. And then there are the soundtrack albums which were
significantly carried by her big singles. Waiting To Exhale was described as the definite
Nineties R&B;album, Preacher's Wife is the best-selling gospel album of all time and
Bodyguard, with sales of 33.6m, is both the biggest-selling soundtrack and biggest-selling
CD of all time.
Altogether Houston has helped Arista sell more than 100m records in her 13-year career.
Watching and listening to the excited reactions from the senior BMG European executives
who attended the Paris session last week, My Love Is Your Love's clever blend of youth and
experience could see even a superstar diva like Whitney Houston break new ground and build
an even more remarkable record.
Its Not Right, But Its Okay:
The first track is probably the best and definitely the most street. Set for a single
release in January.
Heartbreak Hotel: Featuring Bad Boys Faith Evans and Islands
Kelly Price, the combination of the three soul divas really works on this mid-tempo song.
My Love Is Your Love: A definite future hit single and not a
borrowed break in sight.
When You Believe: With an in-studio video to dispel rumours of a
Whitney/Mariah Carey feud, watch this first single fly pre-Christmas.
If I Told You That: Produced by Rodney Jerkins, this is pretty close to
his big hit for Brandy & Monica, The Boy Is Mine.
In My Business: Written for Houston by Missy Elliot who also produces it,
this is the only track on the album to feature a rap which is done by Missy herself.
I Learned From The Best: Houston returns to more familiar Whitneyesque
ground on this Diane Warren-penned big ballad.
Oh Yes: Missy Elliot proves shes not a one-trick pony when it comes
to her production skills. She works well with Houston to put a fresh new angle on a well
Get It Back: Catchy beats reminiscent of Timbalands funk-driven
lazy style, this is one for the clubs.
Until You Come Back: Babyface completed this outstanding ballad just two
weeks ago and he captures Houstons soaring vocals at their Bodyguard best.
I Bow Out: Diane Warren writes while Babyface and Jerkins co-produce.
Its the kind of catchy mid-tempo number that gives the album added depth.
Youll Never Stand Alone: Another Warren/Babyface collaboration,
Houston is on comfortable ground with this ballad.
I Was Made To Love Him: This cover of the Stevie Wonder classic, produced
by Lauryn Hill, is a hidden bonus track and is one of the most interesting tracks on the
album as it shows Houston can really cut it when singing over hip hop beats.
NEWSFILE: 2 NOVEMBER 1998